Sunday, May 06, 2007

Leading Change, by John P. Kotter

Leading Change, by John P. Kotter

This is one of those books that resonates not because it is filled with insightful new ideas, but because it gathers a lot of common sense ideas and presents them in a memorable fashion. It is very formulaic, starting with a list of items that an organization needs to effect lasting change and then expounding on each item in turn. The explanations contain many anecdotes, illustrating both positive and negative reinforcing examples. Charts and tables are also liberally scattered throughout; many cite other books by Kotter which sometimes gave me the impression I was reading a summary of other books instead of something original. Not the most exciting book I’ve ever read, but the content makes it well worth the time.

I’ve been in several companies, some that were successful and some that weren’t. While the reasons some of these failed were obvious, in others it wasn’t as clear to me. Kotter would say that this is in part due to a lack of teamwork. In a slow moving world, teamwork at the top is not essential; in a fast moving world, teamwork is amazingly important virtually all the time. Another key to success is communicating a sensible vision to employees. “Communication comes in both words and deeds. Nothing undermines change more than behavior by important individuals that is inconsistent with the verbal communication.” Teamwork, vision, communication: the combination of these is what defines corporate leadership. Successful companies have it, unsuccessful ones don’t.

Just as organizations are forced to change, so are individuals. Lifelong learning and taking risks is what makes us successful. The keys to this are soliciting honest feedback, active listening, and an openness to new ideas. Why don’t more people do this? Because life is easier without negative feedback and failure. One of the reasons I read books like this is to force myself to learn and change. Introspection is hard, but necessary to grow. If change was easy, everyone would do it!

First Sentence:
By any objective measure, the amount of significant, often traumatic, change in organizations has grown tremendously over the past two decades.

No comments:

Search This Blog